Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Our Hometown in Poetry

After seeing this photo I remember meeting Jevon's 1st uncle (the guy in the middle) many years ago at eldest sister's wedding, where I was the “official” photographer.  I bumped my head against the altar on the front porch of our farm-house, while maneuvering for a better shot. 

“Dangerous work,” He said. 

“Professional hazard.”  I said and realized immediately how hollow it sounded.  As a young man I was too eager to impress him with big words.  He was an intellectual, I was a “nobody”.  I wasn’t anywhere in the horizon of being professional.  I was just enjoying all the action with a camera, using it as a passport to move around among the guests and relatives.  Otherwise I’d have to keep saying ‘excuse me’.  Unfortunately, the chinese "dui pu zu" in Hokkien was seldom used in our northern zone.  ‘Sorry’ is also English word….to say that in Hokkien you try ‘Solly’. 


Later Jevon’s mum showed me a book of his poems.  I remember the title which went something like “Love – in Search of Moon-waves”.  I quickly copied some of the poems because I had to return the book to her.  It belonged to her sis-in-law.  I guess it was the only copy available this side of the globe.  I wonder if he still writes poetry.  Here's one of my favorites.  Especially proud someone wrote about our hometown in a poem.


Tanjong Bungah


A crab side-stepped

Out of his hole

Questioned the bright moon

Hurried into his dark


The sand was quietly white

Except for wood

Rubbing wood

From boats tied too

Near the quay

Fish nets vague and empty as

The moonlight

Stood limp

I flung a spikey shell

At one

It dangled

Plunged into the sea

Rippled concentric circles

Of loneliness

Into moonlight darkness

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Things I'll Never Understand - Art for Art's Sake?


"Art is a jealous mistress; and if a man has a genius for painting, poetry, music, architecture or philosophy, he makes a bad husband and an ill provider."

-Ralph Waldo Emerson


I had taken a choice early in life.  I could either work hard to achieve perfection in my pursuit of art or leave it totally and join the rat race and be an ordinary wage earner.  I chose the latter because I had no stomach for suffering.  All the stories I'd heard about great artists and musicians, who had suffered for their art really scared me off.  Besides, I'd  probably go off the deep end if I have to live such an isolated life.  And in my dreams when I was younger, I'd already seen myself as a loving husband, a wonderful, understanding father to my kids.  I wouldn't let them suffer for a second if I can help it. 


Once in a while I exhibited some of my paintings at the Penang Museum and Art Gallery.  At some of the forums I attended with other artists, I learned that to be true to your art you must make sacrifices for it.  You must not commercialize it.  You must work on art for art's sake.  And so on and so forth...  sheez...


I found out that most of these artists who preach 'art for art's sake' are school teachers or sell art equipment.  They can survive because they have steady income.  I had nothing.  My dad couldn't afford to send me to college.  There were no local art schools.  Only training I could get was from a local artist who taught part time.  My dad actually asked me to continue to work on the farm and work on my art in the afternoons when it is too hot to be outside.  I couldn't see any logic in this arrangement unless I'm a machine.  Pour in fuel, start me up and I'll go.  No way.... 


So, I dropped the idea, shined my shoes and went to town looking for a job.


The Steamed Ma La Cake


My Funnygirl was learning how to make a cake. Got hold of a recipe and (with a little coaching from mom) proceeded to use whatever ingredients she could find, tossed 'em in and stirred 'em up. Result: It looked funny alright. Like somebody dropped his brain (ulgh!)...... But it tasted like 'mun-chien-koay'. Quite ok, (can be eaten lah). But this morning it was hard, rubbery like a piece off my car tyre!!

Don't laugh lah.....she's learning only mah....(we had a good laugh anyway).


Friday, April 22, 2005

Learn as if you'll live forever

There's this life-long learning campaign they're touting in the papers for a while now.  Oh, but I'm learning new things everyday even though I'm not recognised with a certificate or degree for it.  But who needs it anyway?  Not me, at this age.  I prefer not to be tied down by normal practice of learning by memorising and taking an exam at the end of it so as just to get a piece of paper certifying that I have learnt something.  If it's for commercial purposes like getting a promotion or another executive appointment or what-not then it's fine.  But if it's just for framing up and hanging on the wall, forget it.  I'm not egoistic.  I'm also lazy.....


School is just to prepare you for a life of learning.  If you have a degree, fine.  That foundation gives you a better head start.  It just opens better doors for you.  But it doesn't guarantee you the 4 or 5 Cs that everybody dreams about.  Of course if you join the rat race at the time when that qualification is in great demand, that's your luck.  That is, if you're born in the right country or residing in the right country.  I know of a young lady from Myanmar with Masters in Engineering who is now working in Thailand as a production line supervisor.  (I'm always flattered she asks me a lot of technical questions.)  She has to be where there's a job.  There're none back home.


Back to learning.  I find I learn best when I'm actually using what I learn at the moment.  I also learn when I interact with people, be they young or old.  I wish there are more people my age group putting their headshots in this blog site.  Would be nice to know what they know, what they think and how they live their lives.  That doesn't mean I don't learn anything from younger people.  In fact, I learn most from them.  When they ask questions that stump me, I had to search for the answers.  I learnt some basic theories and systematic working methods from young engineers I have to work with, while they look to me for practical solutions to problems which one can't learn in school.


As the old saying goes: "Iron sharpens iron, one man sharpens another." (Proverbs 27:17)  Just keep learning as if you will live forever.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Jottings from My Diary

I’m giving myself a pat on the back!  I’ve actually kept a diary going since 1984!  That was when I found myself cooped up in a factory south of Jakarta, Indonesia.  I bought the little diary and recorded my thoughts just to keep from going off the edge.  I also bought a ‘Kapok’ guitar from a friend and kept singing the same old song about country roads because without my songbook, I could only remember that one by heart.  (My tribute to John Denver)   The despair was sometimes intolerable, being separated from my wife and 2-year old daughter, the drudgery of a dead-end job, the hot, itchy fiber-glass and chemical-filled factory atmosphere and the frequent scolding from the boss.  It was enough to drive a sane man to his knees.  After I came home I found myself starting my career from the bottom.  Often, I had to tell myself, since I’m at the bottom I had no place to go but up.  I proceeded to do just that.


In spite of the daily struggle to make ends meet, I managed to write something in the book.  At the same time my financial condition started to pick up again.  I had our family owned old ‘Olivetti’ type-writer but I couldn’t do much with it.  Every time I made a mistake it was a tedious job correcting it.  I often thought how nice it would be if someone invented a writing device we could write and make corrections just by moving the text around or erasing it and filling up with the corrected text.  I hadn’t realized it then, I was actually thinking about a personal computer, which came into existence several years later.  So, in 1992 I bought my first PC and started my own education in its usage.  In 1994 I continued my diary in Microsoft Word.  So I like to dream. I often think most of my dreams actually come true. 


I’m still counting my blessings.

Thursday, April 7, 2005

Tribute to BeeHean's Hanami

blossoms bekoning you to share

its joy of approaching spring

warming up cherry branches

willowing on upturned faces

of admiration, wonder, fascination

coming and going

staying to drown in the warmth of sake

or dance to the beat of kara oke

mingling conversations

losing myself in the crowds

feeling i am so many happy persons in one

oh hanami

so adorable

wafting fragrant

so pure, so delightful to the soul

oh hanami